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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL their conceptual understanding. The following example, from a preschool classroom, would be considered a STEM activity because it incorpo- rates both science and math. In helping cut up an apple for snack, the chil- dren discover that there are seeds inside. One of the children wonders how many seeds there are, and he counts them to find out. Following his revelation that there are nine seeds from the apple, the children speculate that all apples must have the same number of seeds. The next time the children cut up an apple, the teacher reminds them of their prediction that all apples will have nine seeds. Several children quickly count the seeds in the new apple and discover that there are eight. “This apple doesn’t have as many seeds as the last one,” they say. Isaac, however, is not convinced, so the teacher hands him the seeds from the original apple. “What’s another way to find out if the new apple has as many seeds as the first apple had?” she asks. Carefully, Isaac puts the seeds from the original apple in a row. Then he places one of the seeds from the new apple next to each seed from the original apple. There is one seed left over. Isaac smiles and says, “Yep. The first apple had more seeds.” In this example, Isaac was allowed to solve the problem in a way that made sense to him. Had the teacher simply agreed with the other chil- dren, she would have deprived Isaac of the op- portunity to build upon his own level of thinking to solve the problem. as they experiment and determine answers to their questions. Again, this emphasis on inquiry extends to the youngest learners: “Lifelong scien- tific literacy begins with attitudes and values es- tablished in the earliest years” (National Research Council 1996, 114). Likewise, inquiry should be a guiding force in learning mathematics. As children interact with materials, they form relationships, such as grouping objects into various categories. This in- dicates that they have developed a general rule to govern placement of the items, an important algebra concept. As an example, children may decide that all the large animals should go into one field, and all the smaller animals into an- other field. Once this is accomplished, children may want to make comparisons. Are there more large or small animals? Is there a small animal to go with each large animal? Can the animals be ar- ranged from largest to smallest for a parade? All of these questions involve important mathemat- ical concepts, and children’s inquiry drives their formation of these mathematical relationships. While inquiry often stems from the child, teach- ers can stimulate investigation through carefully posed questions related to the child’s play. The teacher might ask, “Will all of the animals fit into this truck? How many trucks do you think we will need to carry all of the animals?” This intentional teaching through inquiry presents more interest- ing questions for children to answer and moves their learning forward. The teacher has modeled questions that children may ask themselves in the future. Providing Real-World Contexts Encouraging Inquiry The National Science Education Standards, as de- veloped by the National Research Council (1996), emphasize that inquiry into questions generated by students should be the focus of science teach- ing. This does not mean that the teacher never introduces a topic for study. Nevertheless, the teacher should determine what questions chil- dren have about the topic and provide support 6 c ha p te r 1 All of the examples used previously in this chap- ter involve children engaged in everyday experi- ences, such as playing and eating. Young children learn best when activities are relevant to their lives. In science, it is particularly important that young children have real materials to explore, because preschoolers and kindergartners are still determining the difference between reality and fantasy. By observing a classroom goldfish, COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL